South African National Health Plan ‘Laudable,’ WHO’s Moeti Says

South Africa’s plans to implement a national health-insurance program to improve access to health care is “very laudable, but also very complicated,” World Health Organization regional director Matshidiso Moeti said.

The country’s health-care system “even if inequitable, is relatively better than many other countries in the region,” Moeti told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday. “South Africa has a lot of determination to improve quality and access” and is moving in the right direction, she said.

In an effort to improve an ailing public health system plagued by shortages of medicine and staff as well as maintenance backlogs, the government in 2011 announced plans for compulsory medical insurance based on wealthier people contributing more. The plan also involves the government working with private hospitals and doctors.

About a fifth of South Africans use private health care, even as it accounts for more than half of total health care spending, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said last month. The Competition Commission last year started an investigation into competitiveness and pricing within the country’s private health-care industry.

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